Flats East Bank Update
By Denise Koeth
Once upon a time, the east bank of the Cuyahoga River was the site of Cleveland's original settlement and the backbone of its heavy-industrial past. Today, the area is unrecognizable to nearly everyone, from historians to hipsters - and that's a very good thing.
The Flats East Bank entertainment district has transformed the area, creating a hot spot for residents and visitors alike, thanks to a $750 million waterfront redevelopment project. Phase 1 is in the books, starting the project off with a bang that included a 23-story office tower, the trendy Aloft hotel, and the state-of-the-art East Bank Fitness Club.
It's the completion of Phase 2 this summer that makes the area a major draw for those seeking food, drink and sheer entertainment. Now open for business are a high-end residential building, several restaurants and entertainment venues, and an extensive riverfront boardwalk.
The atmosphere is nothing like Cleveland has seen before, and the venues are equally as impressive:
- Alley Cat, the latest restaurant by famed Cleveland-based chef Zach Bruell, is accessible by foot and by boat and offers outdoor patios and prime views of the waterfront. The oyster bar's eclectic menu boasts a wide range of seafood, from popular staples to the wildly creative (grilled octopus, anyone?).
- Another big name in C-town, Steve Schimoler, has expanded his dining empire to include three all-new concepts in the Flats East Bank. Crop Sticks offers contemporary Asian food and a Zen garden. Next door, the music-themed Crop Rocks is a Haight-Ashbury-influenced eatery with a VW microbus parked out front and a vast curated record collection. On-Air: The Studio is a unique hybrid of broadcast studio, event space and dining spot that's all about crowd participation and customer experiences.
- FWD Day & Night Club (open May through September, because let's face it, Cleveland winters don't exactly scream "pool party!") is an open-air, Vegas-style club complete with a 4,000-square-foot pool and deck area, full bar, elevated decking and custom day beds. Created out of repurposed shipping containers, FWD shoehorns Vegas glitz and amenities into humble Cleveland.
- The Big Bang is reminiscent of a former Cleveland staple, Howl at the Moon, but offers a new style and environment in which to watch those good ol' dueling pianos. Shows thrive on audience participation, so be prepared to get off your seat.
- Can't decide whether to go bowling, hit the arcade or show off your dazzling vocal talents in a round of karaoke? Do all three - and more - at Punch Bowl Social. The venue provides a mash-up of "old school" entertainment, culinary refinement and a modern beverage program under one roof.
- Beerhead is exactly like it sounds - so get excited, brew aficionados. The old-world specialty beer pub features some 500 microbrews, craft flavored, organic, gluten-free, seasonal and other specialty beers, wines, and more.
"Basically, you can do anything you want; you can go from a Vegas-style club to a dueling piano bar to an oyster bar and there's no stopping you," says Heidi Yanok, marketing and public relations director for the Flats East Bank. "This isn't just another entertainment district - it's truly a live, play, work environment. People are so excited by the revitalization, they can't believe this is actually Cleveland."
Flats East Bank is the newest go-to place for events and first up is Maize, Scene Magazine's first dedicated fall festival. The free and family-friendly event, slated for Oct. 24 from noon-7 p.m., will feature live music, local vendors, arts and interactive experiences. It's the perfect opportunity to take in Cleveland's gorgeous weather and waterfront views while getting a taste of what the city has to offer in the way of craft brews and great eats.
But wait, there's more!
Next on the horizon for the Flats East Bank project is Phase 3, which will add a movie theater, street level retail and up to 100 additional residences. While no timeline has been stated for these finishing touches, they are sure to add to an already bustling new part of town.